Dani Shapiro
January 12, 2009

On Literary Friendship

Sometimes writers just need to be around other writers. It’s such a bizarre thing we all do, sitting alone, day after day, untangling the brambles of our imagination. When we used to live in Brooklyn, sometimes I felt overwhelmed by being around so many people who did what I do. I couldn’t take a walk without running into a friend, a foe, or just some poet or essayist or novelist I knew slightly, out walking her dog. Back in those days, I felt oppressed by so much close literary contact. There were just too many of us! How could we all be doing interesting work? But here in the country, I would welcome bumping into a fellow writer at the local cafe.

How’s the book going?
We would recognize the wild look in each other’s eyes.
The shaking of the head.
The little, helpless shrug.
Then smile, knowing we weren’t alone doing this weird thing we do.

The problem is, it almost never happens. Partly because there are very few writers where I live (well, there are some living legends but I don’t see them too often) and partly because there’s so little human contact at all. Don’t get me wrong. I like that about living in the country. It’s actually good for my work, and good for my head, if you can even distinguish the two. But sometimes I just need to get out of here. So yesterday, we all took a little ride to visit my friend Jane.

Our work couldn’t be more different. She’s a mega-bestselling writer of books that have their own kiosks in airports. I’m…well, let’s just say I’m not. She writes a book a year. I…well, let’s just say I don’t. When we’re together, we rarely talk about our work. We talk about our kids, and houses, and cooking, and how we’re feeling, and all the stuff of life. But what we see in each other is a kindred spirit: another woman who lives in her imagination and still lives in the real world, who makes something out of nothing every single day.